Time is ticking in Sudan, where the Obama administration is stepping up efforts to ensure that a crucial independence referendum scheduled for January goes off as planned. Sudan, long unstable, is flirting with a civil war, with its largely Christian south expected to vote for secession from the mostly Arab Muslim north—but not until the two parties can agree on a border demarcation and the division of oil revenue, among other things. “We’re really getting close to the drop-dead date when it becomes almost impossible to hold the referendum in January,” a specialist with the U.S. Institute of Peace said. Missing the deadline would be disastrous, and could lead to an outbreak of civil war, a result that could leave fingers pointing at the White House. “Obama’s approach to Sudan may well lead to his being the one who ‘lost’ Sudan and the opportunities for peace,” said Roger Winter, who helped negotiate the end to Sudan’s civil war.